How to Stand Out in an Interview

By Barbara Adams, CPRW, CEIP, MFRW, MFCA, MFCA/T and

Employers are looking for standout candidates in the job interview process–candidates who bring new ideas to the table and address problems with both creativity and confidence. Candidates who answer interview questions with clichés essentially fail for originality, and are classified as “status quo,” lowering their chance of landing that sought-after job. If an interviewer asks you about your biggest weakness, don’t cop out and say that you don’t have any weaknesses, or that you always turn any perceived weaknesses into strengths. Avoid the “status quo” by preparing carefully thought-out answers to common interview questions so you can stand out in your next job interview!

Below are two examples of good interview questions and what you can do to offer a better-than-status-quo, standout response.

1. Why do you think you fit within our company culture?

This job interview question is asked to see how well job interviewees have researched the interworking of a company. A good company culture is the second-highest priority for most job seekers—second only to salary. A candidate may be surprised when asked this question, but a strong, valid answer shows that he or she has done his or her research, and that the candidate is interested in your company for more than just a paycheck—the lifestyle and culture of your workplace, for example.

2. What did you learn from your most impactful professional failure?

Most interviewers ask candidates to expound upon their most impactful professional accomplishment. However, most job candidates are not prepared to respond to the crucial question regarding their failures. They may “tiptoe” around the question, or give an example of a minor slip-up. This question could be an excellent opportunity to provide a good interview answer and really stand out in an interview. An honest but confident candidate will not be afraid to tell the interviewer exactly what went wrong in the situation, and the valuable lesson he or she took from it. Candidates should be specific and tell a short story about the failure, and then explain how they turned this lesson around. Everyone makes mistakes, but those who learn from those mistakes experience professional and personal growth at an exponentially faster rate.

A candidate who demonstrates knowledge of the company and industry will stand out. Candidates who honestly describe their failures and lessons learned will stand out. Hiring managers interview multiple candidates for a position, but the individual who demonstrates a level of expertise and passion and stand out are likely to be productive immediately, without suffering from a learning curve—a rare quality!

What do you think? What are some ways to stand out from the crowd to land a great job?

Barbara Adams has led CareerPro Global, Inc. (CPG) since 1989, and is recognized as one of the pioneers in the careers services industry. Barbara has built CPG into one of the largest and fastest-growing career services organizations industry-wide. Barbara is committed to CPG’s core factors that include quality product, exceptional customer service, and a passion for helping others achieve their career goals. She believes so strongly in these core factors that she positioned CPG to raise the bar by developing an ISO 9001:2008-guided quality process (the first in the careers industry) through which all of CPG’s processes are reviewed and measured for quality. CPG earned full ISO 9001 registration in 2010. Barbara and her team have recently launched the 21st Career Series publications, providing an insider’s guide on how to develop job-winning resumes and sharing helpful strategies to land federal jobs and successfully transition from the military to civilian sector.

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